Key to Umbria: Città di Castello

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Torre Civica (12th century)


This fine square tower formed part of  the original Palazzo Vescovile which was built here in ca. 1285 (see below).  The tower already existed at that time, and had probably stood next to an earlier civic building.  You can climb the stairs inside for a fine view of the city. 

The tower was used to house the first city clock in 1397, but this no longer survives.  It was later used as a prison, as graffiti on the inner walls [where ???] confirms.

The front face of the tower contains a series of coats of arms, mostly of the nobles of Città di Castello from among whom the Consuls were elected.  However, these are badly eroded.  However, an inscription between the two small windows above the portal records the Sienese Pope Pius II: the arms below probably belonged to him.  The inscription seems to be dated 1455.  [He was actually pope in 1458-64 ??]

The inscriptions to the sides between the portal and the first small window commemorate:

  1. members of the local resistance groups who had operated during the Second World War; and

  2. Venanzio Gabriotti, a military hero and prominent anti-Fascist from Città di Castello who was executed by the German SS in 1944.

Fresco fragments (1474)

This fragments of the figure of St Paul in the Pinacoteca Comunale is from a fresco of the Maestà with SS Paul and Jerome that was painted above the entrance to the tower.  According to Tom Henry (referenced in the page on the artist) a 15th century chronicle recorded its commission in 1474 for what was then the Torre del Vescovo.  The date is significant, because this was the year in which Pope Sixtus IV drove Nicolò Vitelli from the city.

The fresco was apparently in good condition until the earthquake of 1789.  It was attributed to Luca Signorelli in 1832 (if not before), and this is generally accepted.  If the attribution is indeed correct, it is among Signorelli’s earliest works.  It suffered further damage when it was detached in 1935.  (Judging from this illustration in Wikimedia, it has suffered yet further deterioration since).  

Palazzo Comunale or dei Priori (ca. 1322-36)


An inscription on the architrave of the main entrance of Palazzo dei Priori was apparently inscribed with the names of the architect, Angelo da Orvieto (“URBE DE VETERI ANGELUS ARCHITECTOR”), of the foremen, Baldo di Marco and Meo di Gano and the date, 1322.   However, work was presumably halted during Pier Saccone Tarlati’s occupation of the city in 1323-35.  It presumably resumed after the statute of 1336 that inaugurated the government of Città di Castello by eight Priors drawn from the city guilds. 

  1. The relief in the lunette of the main entrance depicts the arms of Città di Castello.

  2. The relief in the lunette of the other (now closed) portal depicts a personification of Justice. with an inscription below urging the people to embrace peace, so that the city can be ruled justly. 

  3. The upper floor contains a fine series of bifore windows.

An earthquake in 1354 undermined the project, and a planned upper floor was never built.

The main portal leads to a vaulted area on the ground floor.  The capitals of its polygonal columns are finely carved.  The stairs (16th century) to the left lead to what was originally the Sala del Consiglio (council chamber). 

A collection of Roman  inscriptions has been set into the walls of this chamber. 


                                                       CIL XI 5939                                                    CIL XI 5942

  1. This page in the website of Bill Thayer relates to two of them, both of which date to 1st century AD:

  2. One commemorates Lucius Vennius Sabinus and his son, his son Efficax, who donated a water supply system of some kind “to the people of Tifernum Tiberinum” (CIL XI 5939); and

  3. The other alludes to the fact that a man whose name can no longed be deciphered had left a considerable amount of money and a building for housing the baths for “the commonwealth of Tifernum Tiberinum” (CIL XI 5942).  The inscription, which was apparently found near the present site of the Terme di Fontecchio, actually records a legal ruling reducing the bequest in favour of other potential beneficiaries.

CIL XI 5928

  1. The collection also includes an inscription (CIL XI 5928, 1st century AD) that records a temple dedicated to Veneri Victrix (Venus the Conqueror) that was built by Lucius Arronius Amandus, a sextum vir augustalis (one of the six priests of the city who presided over the cult of the Emperor Augustus).  This inscription was apparently found on a site between Porta San Florido and the Tiber (see the Walk around the Historical Centre) that was excavated in 1910.  The excavations also found a large public building with at least four rooms paved in black and white mosaics, which have been lost.  Cristina Migliorati (referenced in the page on Roman Città di Castello) has suggested that this building and the temple were associated with a river port analogous to that at Pagliano, near Orvieto.

Palazzo del Podestà (before 1368)

The Baroque façade (1687) of Palazzo del Podestà in Piazza Matteotti, which was designed by Nicolò Barbioni, masks a Gothic palace that is attributed to Angelo da Orvieto.  (If this attribution is correct, it is his last known work).  The double clock (date?) is unusual: the clock on the left records the hour, and that on the right the minutes.


The original character of the palace is much clearer from its right hand wall in Corso Cavour, which has a row of ten lovely bifore windows on the piano nobile.   The ground floor was split into nine individual spaces that were rented out as shops: six to the left of the entrance arch and three to the right.  

  1. A relief of the arms of Città di Castello in the lunette with an inscription underneath distinguish the 4th arch along the Corso.  Two of the three castles in the arms of the city can be distinguished (and are just visible in the photograph on the left) but the inscription is no longer readable.

  2. The entrance arch, which is larger than the others, opens onto a barrel vault under the palace. 

Walk through the entrance arch:

  1. The door is under the vault, on the right.

  2. Continue to the open portico (1620-2) that runs along the opposite wall of the palace. illustrated above 

Palazzo Vescovile (18th century)


This palace next to the Torre Civica took on its present form after the earthquake of 1789 and was restored in 2003-6.

The date and location of the original episcopal palace of Città di Castello are unknown.  The statutes of  1285 record the “domo nova episcopatus”, which suggests that it had been recently rebuilt at that time.  Part of what is possibly part of the original wall can be seen in the right and back walls of the present building.    

According to tradition, the first duomo of Città di Castello, which was dedicated as Santo Stefano, was destroyed by Totila in the 6th century.  A church of this name was documented in 1360, when it was transferred from the canons of the cathedral to Bishop Buccio Bonori to make way for the extension of Palazzo Vescovile.   Traces of this ancient church were uncovered during the restoration of the palace in 2003-6: these can be viewed under a glass panel in the floor of the re-named Sala Santo Stefano in the palace.  This detail of the plan (ca. 1675) of Città di Castello by Filippo Titi (in the Biblioteca Comunale “Giosue Carducci”) shows a later church with this dedication as number 47.
An old portal in the left side of the palace (in Via Cacciatori del Tevere) might have belonged to the baptistry, which was documented here in the 14th century.  

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